MMI Preparatory School held the annual Athena Ford ’01 Day of Service on Thursday, October 19, 2023. This annual event honors the legacy of Athena Ford ’01 who passed away in 2016 because of complications sustained in an automobile collision where she was a seat-belted passenger and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Athena Ford’s life was marked by sincere empathy, care and concern for, and service to her fellow man. While a student at MMI, Athena started a chapter of Amnesty International, served on the Regional Planning Board for the Mid-Atlantic Region, and started a Yellow Ribbon Club to prevent teen suicide. After graduating in 2007 from Kenyon College, she was a community organizer in Philadelphia for Working America. She tirelessly worked in the field of health insurance reform, first for the support and passage of the ACA with the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, then as the statewide advocacy director for the Pennsylvania Health Action Network.
MMI alums Paul Lesser ’73, Cal Herring ’74, and Tyler Breznitsky ’09 helped to kick-off day by speaking to students about what service means to them and the significance of community service. MMI’s faculty led additional activities including discussion activities and videos highlighting the importance of service and the completion of service-based classroom activities. At 9:00 am, all students and faculty headed out to volunteer all over the Greater Hazleton Community. Upon their return to the school at 1:00 pm, there was an all-school lunch before the students and faculty heard remarks made by Austin Ford ’03 about his sister’s legacy. A number of Athena’s family members also attended the assembly. The day wrapped up with some games for the students led by MMI’s Student Council.
Students volunteered at the following locations:
- The 6th graders stayed on campus and worked in the Mildred Kahler Courtyard and at the MMI Athletic Field Complex. The group cleaned up the gardens, weeded, raked, swept, and did some field maintenance.
- The 7th graders walked to Freeland Public Park. They raked and bagged leaves in the park.
- The 8th grade students performed numerous jobs including cleaning out stalls and grooming horses at Country Heart Farm.
- The 9th graders worked at Valley Regional Softball Field, Butler Township Park, Valley East Little League and the Butler Township Community Garden. They did field work, raked leaves, removed signage, weeded the softball infields, and helped to get the garden cleaned up and winterized.
- MMI’s 10th graders were split into two groups and worked at two sites. Half of the group headed to Whispering Willows Park where they worked on the Valley West Little League Field, laying stone and continuing to assist with cleanup from storm damage at the field complex. The rest of the class was at Larock Park where they painted the cement barriers in the parking lot, picked up trash and limbs across the park, and cleaned the playhouse structure.
- The 11th grade students headed to downtown Hazleton where they volunteered at the Pennsylvania Theater of the Performing Arts (PTPA), The Hazleton Art League, and the Hazleton One Community Center.
- The senior class performed their service at Rails to Trails where they collected trash, raked, weeded, and trimmed branches and brush.
MMI Head of School, Theresa Long said, “This is a wonderful day that teaches our school community about service through doing. We are so grateful to the contributors to the Athena Ford ’01 Endowed Fund for Community Service for their generous support to make this day a reality for our students, faculty, and staff. Our community partners look forward to having our students’ help each year.”